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The Apple car is dead. Long live the Apple self-driving car system

As we (and most everyone by now) expected, the tech titan is working on a system, not a whole car.

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This story is part of WWDC 2022, CNET's complete coverage from and about Apple's annual developers conference.

After years of watching the media (ourselves included) take shot-in-the-dark guesses as to Apple's automotive aspirations, CEO Tim Cook is finally dishing deets on his company's secretive project.

"We're focusing on autonomous systems," Cook told Bloomberg in an interview published Tuesday. "We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects." 

This confirms that Apple isn't working on a whole car, but rather a system that it could sell to automakers.

CEO Tim Cook didn't discuss Apple's autonomous-car project at WWDC during the keynote, but it's not like the company was light on new products.

James Martin/CNET

This is probably the wisest way to go. Instead of attempting to build a whole car from scratch -- a proposition that can take more than five years at a cost of more than $1 billion, and that's just for the car itself -- Apple can focus on its tech strengths and strive to build a system that will print even more money for a company with enough cash lying around to buy a small country.

That said, it's not like Apple didn't try to build its own car. Last year, the company pivoted from that plan of attack to its current one after costs and staffing grew to Brobdingnagian proportions.

While it's nice to see Cook finally go public with some details of Project Titan, the car project's internal code name, it's not like Apple could have lived in the shadows for much longer. Public information revealed that Apple was given a permit to operate self-driving cars in California. Not longer after that, one of its kitted-out Lexus RX450h hybrids was seen operating on a California highway.

The cat was already out of the bag, but now it's official. I suggest heading over to Bloomberg to watch the interview in full. Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for further comment.